Orleans voters go to the polls Tuesday, May 16 to decide a three-person race for two three-year terms on the board of selectmen. Below, candidates David Currier, Erik Oliver and Mefford Runyon answer questions posted by The Chronicle. The polls at the senior center on Rock Harbor Road will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Name: David Currier
Occupation: Self-employed, local business owner
How long lived in Orleans? Born on the Cape, lived in Orleans entire life
Business or civic associations: Orleans Chamber of Commerce
Municipal service: Board of health
Favorite scenic location: Nauset Outer Beach
The biggest challenges facing the town: The biggest challenges I see facing the town are wastewater, affordable housing, and the lack of things for young people to do.
What is the town's biggest asset and how would you protect it? The towns biggest assets are our beaches. I personally can not solve this issue alone, I would need to work with fellow board members on any and all solutions that might be available.
What will be your priorities as a selectman? My priorities as a selectman would be helping businesses grow, protecting our beaches and access to our beaches, cleaning up our waters, and finding affordable housing solutions.
What are your positions on the following issues?
Water quality improvements: I feel the landfill plume is really important and scary, this needs to be addressed.
Affordable housing needs: Zoning and the nitrogen regulations need to do some creative work to help us with options with this issue.
Ways to increase town revenues: This doesn't get talked about enough. There is a lot of spending without a plan on how it is going to get paid back.
Historic districts: This is something I'm not to sure about; I have not spent much time on this, although I am open to any ideas if it is an improvement to our town.
Name: Erik Oliver
Occupation: Vice president of sales
How long lived in Orleans: About 16 years
Favorite scenic location: Skaket Beach sunset
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the town? The town is facing not just one but a series of challenges, many of which are interconnected. The solutions we propose to one challenge may actually exacerbate the difficulties posed by another.
We know we are facing a series of major capital expenditure projects. Some of these are known and quantifiable (new police station, new DPW building) and some are known but not yet quantifiable (wastewater spending and fixing the pollution plume from the landfill).
Aside from working out what are the best solutions to the wastewater and landfill problems, the biggest challenge is how to pay for these projects without raising property taxes to a point where the town becomes even less affordable for young families and other year round residents.
What is the town's biggest asset and how would you protect it? The town’s biggest assets are undoubtedly its beaches and natural resources. For years we sat back and allowed over-zealous state and federal government agencies to place greater restrictions on access to our beaches. Former Selectman John Hodgson along with citizens like Dave Currier, who is also a current candidate for selectman, reversed that trend with the first ever habitat conservation permit. I applaud, support and pledge to continue their work in maintaining access to all of our beaches and natural resources.
What will be your priorities as a selectman? The Town has lost two-thirds of its 25- to 34-year olds in the last 15 years. The year-round resident population is in long-term decline and seasonal second homes are 50 percent of all homes in Orleans. This is a potential crisis because we need a healthy, thriving year-round population to maintain a healthy year-round business community.
My many years of experience as a former president and board member of the Orleans Chamber of Commerce will be invaluable in ensuring we maintain a healthy economy which will support a year round business community to contribute to the overall tax base and help pay for the capital projects
What are your positions on the following issues: Water quality improvements, including downtown sewering and addressing the nitrogen plume from the landfill; affordable housing needs across all ages; ways to increase town revenues; and establishing historic districts in Orleans. These issues are all interconnected. Of course we need to address the capital projects, and at the same time we need to keep Orleans affordable so that we can maintain a thriving year-round population, including young and working families.
We need to maintain access to our beaches and preserve the historic Cape Cod “feel” of our town so that we can continue to attract the seasonal visitors who contribute so much to our seasonal economy.
Taken together, a healthy year-round population and a healthy seasonal visitor population will provide a thriving economy which in turn enables a strong and growing business community to contribute to the tax base and limit the growth in residential property taxes.
Name: Mefford (Meff) Runyon
Occupation: Current: B&B owner, yoga teacher; Previous: banker (36 years at Cape Cod Five).
How long living in Orleans: Year round since 1974, summers since 1952
Business or civic affiliations: Current: Orleans Conservation trust, vice president; previous: Orleans Rotary, Academy of Performing Arts
Municipal service: Current: Orleans Open Space Committee since 1998, current chairman; community preservation committee since 2013; previous: bike and pedestrian committee 2012–2014, Orleans Comprehensive Plan Committee, 1998–2000, Orleans Economic Development Committee, 2000–2002.
Favorite scenic location in town: from back side of Pochet Island south towards Chatham over the marsh, Pleasant Bay, outer beach, and Atlantic ocean.
Biggest challenge facing the town: Wastewater management is the obvious answer and a subject unto itself. It will be the largest ticket item facing the town, but just one of several large infrastructure projects, a new police station and a new DPW building among them, that will soon appear in our tax bills. The town has been postponing needed
infrastructure investment for far too long, to the detriment of the taxpayers; the DPW project, for example, has been discussed and put off for 20 years. As a result, significant costs have been added to these projects and the town has lost the ability to moderate their impact on taxpayers by spreading out their timing. Additional infrastructure investments loom. The biggest challenge will be to manage the cost of these projects without losing sight of other important needs and the ability to address them.
What is the town's biggest asset and how would you protect it: Orleans, like all of Cape Cod, is desirable for one reason: the beauty and bounty of its environment, its waterways being the largest and most threatened
element. Protecting and restoring the quality of these waters, salt and fresh, will take great care, attention, and persistence. It will take a variety of approaches, some underway and others developing: fertilizer controls, storm drain improvements, wastewater management, aquaculture, and dredging, as examples.
What would be your priorities as a selectman? Orleans has to develop a discipline to manage and maintain its infrastructure in the most cost-effective manner. This requires a long-term approach that won’t be subject to manipulation for the illusion of lower taxes in the short-term.
Beyond this, my priorities are:
• Improving access and use of all the town’s waterways for the residents of Orleans. The outer beach gets all the attention, but we have 29 town landings, Skaket Beach, and Rock Harbor, all of which could offer more for our
residents with some attention, investment, and creativity.
• Developing more affordable housing in general, with emphasis on work-force housing. I would also favor the purchase and rehabilitation of existing housing stock over the construction of new housing.
• Improving the plight of bicyclists and pedestrians throughout town. Public safety demands this, as does the development of more green initiatives by the town.
• Beginning the planning process for a community center in Orleans.
• Finding a solution to the traffic mess downtown where the bike path crosses Main Street.
What are your positions on the following issues:
Water quality, sewers, and landfill plume: Most water quality initiatives, such as sewers, are preventative in approach and address stopping future nitrogen flows. The work of the water quality advisory panel, while unfinished, appears to view sewering the downtown as the best way to improve the quality of water in Town Cove.
I will support their findings. The town should undertake an aggressive clean up of the nitrogen (and ammonia) plume recently found at the landfill.
Affordable Housing needs: The need for affordable housing remains acute for all ages and abilities. The town has
been able to consistently fund worthwhile affordable housing projects through its community preservation committee, though there are never enough resources to meet demand. I will continue to support the creation of affordable housing, with priority given to members of the work force.
Increasing town revenues: The town is starting to experiment with raising revenues by use of fees. I support the
idea, but less broadly than some have proposed. For example, charging resident users at the landfill is more appropriate than charging them at the beach. I favor first finding new fee revenue for the town from non-resident users of the town’s facilities and services, before charging higher fees to our own residents.
Historic Districts: I favor the creation of historic districts in appropriate areas of town. I also support more active preservation of individual, historic buildings.